Sen. Jeff Flake -- one of the most enthusiastic Senate supporters of amnesty and of increasing legal immigration -- revealed today in the New York Times that illegal immigration and reliance on foreign labor was an integral part of his childhood experience.
The op-ed tells us quite a bit about the philosophy behind the Arizona Republican who seems to be setting himself up to be a major obstacle in moving the RAISE Act through the Senate. He opposes the RAISE Act because it would cut new lifetime work permits from one million a year to a half-million and because it would institute a point system that would ensure that much of the remaining green cards go to people with higher skills.
From his family's experience of dependence on lower-skill foreign labor for the survival of its ranch, Flake argues that America needs a lot more people with lower skills.
By working by their side, I came to know that these Americans by choice are some of the most inspiring Americans of all."
The Senator does not say how many of the family's hired hands were in the country legally. But the one who is the center of his op-ed, Manuel Chaidez, was not for many years:
All told, he (Chaidez) devoted 24 years of his life to the ranch. Those first years were interrupted more than a dozen times, when Manuel was picked up and returned to Mexico by the Border Patrol. Each time, he made his way back."
And each time, the Flake family re-hired him. That was before such hiring was against the law, but we learn that Flake grew up in the kind of corrupted labor system that has gradually overtaken most of the border states.
Flake can't imagine Americans doing less-skilled labor because:
My dad would occasionally hire some of my high school buddies. The work was so hard that they often washed out after a day or two. "
Flake's description of his relationship with Manuel Chaidez is touching. In his formative years, he got "relationship advice" from Chaidez as they worked closely. Recently, Chaidez and his family were eagerly embraced by the large extended Flake family at the funeral of the Senator's father. (Chaidez eventually had gotten permanent legal status after his marriage.)
But in Flake's description of the foreign workers on the ranch, he inadvertently provides details for our opposition to mass immigration. For example:
Manuel was just 16 when he made it from Sonora, Mexico, to the F-Bar, my family's ranch outside the town of Snowflake, in Northern Arizona. I was just a kid, no more than 6 or so, and to me Manuel looked like a full-grown man. He wasn't much more than a kid himself, of course, but he worked as if his family depended on him. They probably did."
Employers of foreign labor love to have workers who are desperate. They WILL work harder than Americans. They will work for compensation and under working conditions that Americans won't accept. It isn't surprising that it is difficult to find American workers who can compete, or who want to compete, at those standards.
Flake says "we forget something elemental about America" if we don't see the importance to America of bringing people in like his family's ranch hands who knew little English, had little money, and hadn't finished high school.
I don't doubt Sen. Flake's heart-felt good will toward foreign workers developed from very real personal experiences.
But our immigration policy cannot be based on the Flake ranch or any ranches. It can't be based on whether foreign workers are good people.
Immigration policy has to take into consideration that some 55 million working-age Americans and immigrants already here are NOT working, and that most of them are less-skilled and would compete in the construction, manufacturing, hospitality and other service occupations where most less-skilled immigrants work.
Personal sentimentality does not make for a just or rational public policy. The RAISE Act does.
ROY BECK is Founder & President of NumbersUSA
Updated: Fri, Sep 1st 2017 @ 10:25pm EDT